March 8, 2021

Incredible Instructor Kajsa Ceder, Offers Pilates in Topanga


“It’s all about the core,” explains Pilates instructor, Kajsa Ceder. “That’s where the center of strength comes from. That’s were you control the movement.”

Pilates is a specific method of exercise developed by one Joseph Hubertus Pilates, who was born in Germany in 1880. He was rather a sickly child, plagued by asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Not content to suffer the debilitating effects of these conditions, Pilates devoted his life to becoming physically stronger. He became proficient at body building and developed skills in skiing and gymnastics. Moving to England he became a boxer, circus performer and self-defense trainer. Returning to Germany after World War I he trained the city’s police force and worked with the German Army. Disenchanted with the German military, Pilates emigrated to the United States. On the ship to America he met his future wife, Clara, with whom he founded an exercise and training studio in New York City where he taught his new method of ‘Contrology.’ Eighty years later, local Topanga resident Kajsa Ceder teaches and conducts Pilates classes in her charming home studio. She calls her business, In Lightning Pilates.

Ms. Ceder has lived in Topanga since 1993 and has operated the studio since 2004. A former model, Kajsa says she began exploring Pilates as a way to keep fit. “I was working with a renowned Pilates teacher named Elsa Bohn. She was my mentor. When Elsa had to be away for a short while I began to fill in and teach the other students. That’s how I became a teacher.” Ms. Ceder went on to become a certified Pilates instructor through the company, Power Pilates, and her current clients are very pleased she did.

Ms. Ceder, with her fairytale blond locks and Cheshire Cat smile, hardly appears to be a day over 30, and looks as if she well could still be a model. She was originally from Santa Barbara and her modeling career took her all over the world. “I really wasn’t very wise with saving any of the money I earned at that time,” she admits. “All I have left from those days are two paintings that I bought.”


Incredible Instructor Kajsa Ceder, Offers Pilates in Topanga

Instructor Kajsa Ceder helps Topanga client Laura Errico form side sit-ups on the Pilates spine corrector.

Ceder’s Pilates studio is spacious and inviting, situated in the lovely home she shares with her two children—young teen Lucas and pretty third-grader Anaka. The walls are a soft but energizing orange color and the Pilates equipment looks sleek and clean, modern and state-of-the-art. The atmosphere is so inviting and encouraging that just walking into the room makes one want to try hoping on board the ‘Cadillac’ or ‘barrel’ and start right in, or at least pull up a mat and begin a set of ‘hundreds.’

Client Laura Errico is the picture of glowing health. She is a Topanga resident and has an interior design business called Errico Design. Ms. Errico has been coming at least twice a week to work with Ceder for several years and cannot speak highly enough about the experience: “I bid on a Pilates class at the Topanga Silent Auction a few years back and that was the beginning. I also found I was experiencing some problems with osteoporosis (though she hardly looks old enough to be touched by that condition), and after working with Kajsa it has completely disappeared.”

Errico looks toned and strong. A special spark radiates from her face and body, and I notice it in Ceder as well. It is almost as if they belong to a different race of humans—straighter and stronger, with every muscle toned and defined, yet not overly so. They seem tall and finely balanced, and then it occurs to me that what they have achieved is a beautiful harmonious centeredness. It is an enviable state of being and they both attribute it to Pilates.

Errico states, “Pilates works the whole body evenly, so you feel good at the end. I always feel energized after coming here.”


Incredible Instructor Kajsa Ceder, Offers Pilates in Topanga

Ceder demonstrates hanging pull-ups with Pilates backboard in her Topanga studio.

The exercises are based on very controlled movements, somewhat limited in range of motion and all being controlled by the central core. Ms. Ceder explains, “A primary objective to Pilates exercise is to connect to one’s core and restore balance and strength to the body. Pilates strengthens the deeper muscles, called secondary muscles, giving the body a strong lean appearance. Strengthening the core relieves compression to the spine and numerous nerve issues.”

Ceder reports that the exercises are beneficial for an array of conditions including osteoporosis, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, pregnancy, chronic aches and tiredness. She shares, “Pilates also has the ability to assist with weight loss by increasing muscle density and tone, which in turn increases metabolism so the body burns more calories.”

According to “The Pilates Method,” a handbook on body conditioning written by Sean Gallagher and Romana Kryzanowska (she is the only living disciple of Joseph Pilates, and is still actively training people), there are six basic principles of the Pilates method—concentration, control, centering, flowing movement, precision and breathing. Relaxation is considered an important component as well, since many beginners have a tendency to tense up or become rigid.

I watch as Ceder gently guides Errico through some of the exercises. Ceder has a hands-on, expert demeanor in assisting her client through a series of different postures and movements, with names such as the Mermaid, Crisscross, the Seal and the Teaser. There are various levels of intensity in performing the exercises and some are recommended only for those of an intermediate or advanced ability. Ceder knows how much each student is capable of and can gear the routine accordingly. “Basically your own body can tell you its limits,” she confides, “I just assist it.”

Errico makes the exercises look simple and effortless, but I know I probably could not execute one of them properly myself. Then Anaka, Ceder’s lovely nine-year-old daughter, demonstrates some of the movements. She glides through them with the grace and poise of a young ballerina, utilizing a core strength that is truly impressive. Of course she has the best of teachers.

The intensive Pilates program is not really for children under 17, however mat work is appropriate for their developing physiques. The varying Pilates equipment and apparatus consist of handsome wooden pieces with cushions and springs to assist in stretching, breathing, balancing and strengthening the area Joseph Pilates referred to as the Powerhouse. The Powerhouse is considered the single most important section of the body and is the area between the bottom of the rib cage and the line across the hips. Ceder’s top-of-the-line equipment is beautifully designed and easily adjustable.

It isn’t long before another client shows up for her session at In Lightening Pilates. Noelle Berman is so effusive in her appreciation of Ceder and Pilates one would think she was hired just to promote the business. “This is only my fourth time and I feel incredibly better already. I have so much more energy. I have to drive a lot every day and this has helped me to feel better. I don’t get tired the way I used to.”

Both Errico and Berman share Pilates talk, Errico promising Berman she will be seeing even more energizing results and weight loss. They both praise Ceder’s skills as an instructor and mention the feeling of being ‘addicted’ to the exercise program. The instructor and her clients fill the studio with such blazing good health and energy I begin to feel like a lumbering elephant. Any body- conditioning program that can produce such incredible results that obviously involve not only physical health but a great feeling of well being also is certainly worth exploring. (I, for one, plan to bid on an In Lightning Pilates class with Ceder at this year’s upcoming Silent Auction.) In the meantime I read of an exercise in the Pilates handbook that I have been practicing at home. To be honest the exercise, called Squeezing the Buttocks, conjures not a pretty picture, so if you are of a delicate nature perhaps you should r